Stuttgart Soldiers Master Art of Combatives
Sgt. Brandon Butler, left, prepares to go up against an instructor at the Modern Army Combative Program Level One Instructor Certification Course in Stuttgart, Germany.

STUTTGART, Germany - Punches rained down on Spc. John Bench.

He tried to protect himself - forearms held in front of his face blocking incoming blows. And his right nostril was packed with gauze to stop a nosebleed from an earlier round.

As 16-ounce gloves pummeled his head and torso, he kept his defensive posture and worked to close the distance on his opponent.

Yet there was no boxing ring or cheering fans; Bench was practicing a clench drill in a hand-to-hand combatives class. In fact, it was part of 40 hours of training to become certified Modern Army Combative Program level-one instructors at the Patch Fitness Center here.

Bench joined fellow Soldiers from Landstuhl's Company C, 53rd Signal Battalion, and the Stuttgart-based 554th Military Police Company and Alpha Detachment, 1st Space Company, Joint Tactical Ground Station for the instruction.

MACP is based on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial arts that focuses on grappling and ground fighting with the goal of gaining a dominant position and forcing an opponent to submit, said Staff Sgt. Aaron Donaldson, a level three instructor from the 1st Space Battalion at Colorado Springs, Colo. "Soldiers are taught to close the distance, gain a dominant position and finish the fight."

Soldiers start out learning the dominant body positions. "On the second day we focus on joint manipulation and chokes. We have them fighting every day. We teach a technique; they practice it," said Donaldson.

"We progressively let them fight harder. We gradually increase the intensity. On day three we're fighting all day," he said. "We don't take it easy on them, because the enemy is not going to. We do teach them they have to pace themselves; they have to focus on technique and not muscle."

On the fourth day, the clench drill comes into play and allows Soldiers to gain confidence to move in close to the enemy. "They're getting punched and they're not allowed to punch back," said Donaldson. "They should be closing the distance. They fight four rounds, each with a different puncher. With each round, the intensity increases.

"We're countering the universal fight plan, which basically says if I punch someone hard enough and enough times, I'll knock him out. We don't fight like that," Donaldson said.

Instead, the Soldier has to move in and bring the opponent down. It's not about who can hit the hardest but subduing the opponent. "We tell them the winner of the hand-to-hand fight in combat is the one whose buddy shows up first with a gun," said Donaldson.

The idea of getting hit is one of the hardest things a Soldier has to overcome, said instructor Staff Sgt. Tony Cady, also from 1st Space Battalion.

"It was a lot less intimidating than I had built it up to be in my mind," said Bench. "It's a mental thing - you've got to get over it."

After written and practical tests, 11 Soldiers were certified as level-one instructors and will be able to train Soldiers in their squad or platoon.

"Combatives is part of our common task training," said JTAGS crew leader Staff Sgt. Matthew Brown. "We don't get many chances to train together like this ... the Soldiers were extremely excited. This is the first time JTAGS has been able to bring people from our home unit to certify instructors."

For more information on the Modern Army Combative Program, visit the U.S. Army Combatives School Web site at, or the U.S. Combative Arts Association Web site at A level one training video can be seen at

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16